The 2,412th Meeting of the Society

September 20, 2019 at 8:00 PM

Powell Auditorium at the Cosmos Club

Space Architecture for a Moon Village

Designing for Space Habitation

Daniel Inocente

Senior Architectural Designer
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Sponsored by PSW Science Member Mayumi Okada


About the Lecture

Five decades after humans first set foot on the Moon and more than 45 years since the last foot left its surface, a new initiative is underway to return there, and this time the aspiration is to settle there on a permanent basis.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), in partnership with the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has released a design for a “Moon Village,” a concept presented by ESA Director General Jan Woerner for the first full-time human habitat on the lunar surface.

Solving the challenges of designing a habitat for the moon environment requires cross-disciplinary collaboration, and a completely new way of approaching the space industry’s most complicated problems. ESA is providing a diverse range of expertise from the European Astronaut Centre and the European Space Research and Technology Centre. This experience is coupled with faculty from MIT’s Aerospace Engineering Department, and SOM’s extensive experience in architecture, engineering, urban planning, and sustainable design, ensuring a holistic approach to the project.

Resiliency and self-sufficiency are key design requirements. The master plan envisions a Moon Village on the rim of Shackleton Crater, near the moon’s South Pole, which receives near continuous daylight throughout the lunar year. This kind of planning is essential for the first of three envisioned development phases—several critical infrastructural components and habitable structures—that would allow the Village to harness sunlight for energy and set up in situ resource utilization (ISRU) experiments, or the generation of food and other life-sustaining elements using the Moon’s natural resources. Water from the permanently shadowed depressions near the South Pole would be extracted to create breathable air and rocket propellant for transportation and for the support of industrial activities. The settlement would be clustered close to the crater’s water-ice deposits. Additionally, each cluster of modules would be connected to enable seamless mobility between structures, with communications towers on the highest ridges of the uneven terrain.

The individual pressurized modules are designed to inflate and expand to increase user space for future growth and program requirements. The concept calls for three to four-story structures, with workspaces, living quarters, and environmental control and life support systems. These inflatable structures would provide—together with regolith-based protective shells—resistance to extreme temperatures, projectiles, regolith dust, and solar radiation. More importantly, these features would enable the Moon Village to carry out its much larger purpose as a scientific, industrial, and entertainment development, and an endeavor with far-reaching goals.

The Moon Village is an open, multi-partner concept that fits into ESA’s reflection on future exploration beyond 2050—complementary to projects already validated by ESA’s member states—and into NASA’s Strategic Plan to “extend human presence deeper into space and to the Moon for sustainable long-term exploration and utilization.” It is an opportunity to explore the Moon in its entirety, to spur research and commercial growth, and to serve as a stepping stone to achieve even greater ambitions: extending the human footprint to Mars and beyond.

About the Speaker

Daniel Inocente is a Senior Architectural Designer with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and a leader in the Design Science Computation Group and in building partnerships with organizations like the European Space Agency, MIT and NASA to advance the forefront of research and design.

Daniel has worked on designs of a variety of large scale projects, including the Guggenheim Museum – Abu Dhabi, the Battersea Development in London, Frank Gehry’s Residence, NASA Mission Operations Facilities and, among more recent SOM projects, the Hangzhou Center Skyscraper, the Zhongtian Skyscraper and the Guiyang World Trade Center. Previous engagements include work with Gehry Partners, GehrGehry Technologies, Tighe Architecture, HKS Architects, Trimble Architecture and NASA.

In his current role at SOM, he is responsible for designing and implementing strategic methodologies for building systems and structures across sectors that include skyscrapers, transportation, aviation, cultural, government, science, urban developments and space architecture. He is committed to the view that new methodologies emerge from putting research into action, driving performance, efficacy in material and energy use, behavioral responsiveness and the practice of architecture. As he sees it negotiating the relationships between contemporary urban systems, expressive qualities and engineered architecture is fundamental to achieving new forms of elegance and functionality that elevate the human experience. Daniel considers the thoughtful integration of social, environmental, engineering and material conditions a necessity for producing intelligently differentiated architectural solutions.

Daniel studied Architecture at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, focusing his thesis on environmental science and infrastructural design.